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The Influence of Influencers: Are We Following Trends into Global Destruction?



  • Fashion waste site Nirobi, Kenya


If global fashion waste sites (as shown above), Uyghur genocide allegedly sponsored in part by Temu, and Shein influencers "whitewashing" trip of 2023 have made anything apparent to us it's that we need to be much more mindful how much belief we give to strangers who have been crowned as influencers on social media. As stated in Sustainable fashion weeks Sustainably report, Fast fashion companies and designers alike have been using psychological marketing tactics such as influencers to sway our consumption behaviors for YEARS.


For those reading this thinking "What's the Shein influencers trip?" Here is some background: On June 2023 a highly contentious influencer excursion arranged by Shein, a prominent player in the fast-fashion industry, which took participants to visit manufacturing facilities in China. Shein, known for its trendy and affordable clothing, has rapidly gained popularity through social media marketing and influencer collaborations.  The trip aimed to offer influencers an insider's view of Shein's operations, including its design process, logistics, and sustainability initiatives.



However, The controversy surrounding Shein's business practices, including concerns about labor conditions in its supply chain and environmental impact due to its fast-fashion model. While such trips are often designed to offer influencers a behind-the-scenes look at the brand's operations and foster positive publicity, this particular initiative was met with widespread criticism and scrutiny. Critics and activists have raised serious ethical concerns regarding Shein's business practices, including allegations of labor exploitation and environmental degradation associated with its fast-fashion model. They argue that these influencer trips may serve as mere PR stunts aimed at glossing over the brand's contentious reputation rather than addressing the systemic issues within its supply chain. Critics argue that Shein's influencer trip may serve to whitewash these issues and deflect attention from its problematic practices. They point to the disconnect between Shein's portrayal of itself as a socially responsible brand and the realities of its supply chain, where workers often face exploitation and environmental harm. The controversy surrounding the Shein influencer trip underscores broader debates within the broader fashion industry about sustainability, ethical sourcing, and corporate responsibility. As consumers increasingly demand transparency and accountability from brands, incidents like this serve as a stark reminder of the complexities and challenges inherent in the pursuit of ethical fashion practices.


Another company using influencer marketing to push sales is Temu is starting to get back lash for its excessive product range and the potential for labor rights abuses in its supply chain. Temu is the U.S. offshoot of Chinese e-commerce giant Pinduoduo, is the most downloaded new app in America. Lately tensions rose between the brand's claims of ethicality and the complexities inherent in the fashion industry's supply chain. Temu asserts its dedication to sustainability through initiatives such as utilizing eco-friendly materials and ensuring fair labor conditions for workers involved in the production process. These efforts represent commendable strides towards mitigating the environmental and social impacts associated with conventional fashion production.

However, While Temu may tout its sustainability credentials, skeptics argue that without clear evidence and robust mechanisms for oversight, such claims remain unsubstantiated.


Photograph: Sk Hasan Ali / Shutterstock.com



There is a broader implications of influencer marketing in the fashion industry, noting the power of social media influencers to shape consumer perceptions and drive sales. This issue is bigger than Shein and Temu and it raises questions about the ethical responsibility of influencers who collaborate with any fast fashion brands urging them to consider the social and environmental implications of their partnerships. By following influencers who promote fast fashion brands, consumers inadvertently contribute to increased fashion waste. These influencers often showcase rapid turnover of trendy clothing, promoting a culture of overconsumption and disposability.


Moreover, let's also consider not only the immediate impact of our purchasing decisions but also the systemic changes needed within the fashion industry to truly advance sustainability and ethicality. By engaging in dialogue and scrutiny surrounding fast fashion brands, consumers can empower themselves to make informed choices and advocate for greater transparency and accountability in the fashion industry.  These incidents underscore the imperative for consumers to scrutinize fast fashion brands and demand greater transparency and accountability. They also raise the need for us to be accountable for our poor fashion consumption practices. Lastly, They raise ethical questions about the role of influencers in promoting brands with questionable practices. Ultimately, this calls for a conscientious approach to consumer choices and advocacy for systemic change within the fashion industry. Collaborating with fast fashion brands is collaborating with fashion waste; We need to make a change.



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